STRATEGIES TO PREVENT VERTICAL TRANSMISSION AMONGST CHILDREN: LESSONS FROM NIGERIA

Hello everyone,

I’m Peter Yawe, a medical doctor and liver health advocate based in Nigeria. I lead a team dedicated to raising awareness about hepatitis among underserved communities, promoting early detection through community testing and vaccinations, and facilitating access to care. I will be sharing key insights from one of our works. While this is a condensed overview, I’m eager to go deeper into any specific aspects you find interesting.

BACKGROUND

Hepatitis, particularly transmitted from mother to child, remains a significant global health challenge. This presents insight from a comprehensive study conducted in Nigeria, that focuses on vertical transmission of viral hepatitis in pediatric
populations.

OBJECTIVES

We aimed to assess the prevalence of Hepatitis B and C in children born to seropositive mothers in a high-risk region. We also aimed to identify risk factors contributing to vertical transmission and pediatric infection, and proposed evidence-based strategies for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission in resource-constrained settings, such as Nigeria.

METHOD

A cross-sectional study was conducted in three tertiary health facilities in Plateau State, Nigeria, enrolling 400 children (≤16 years) born to both seropositive and seronegative parents. Data on demographics, maternal seropositivity, and familial liver disease history were collected. Serum antibody and antigen testing were performed using rapid detection kits. Statistical analysis was conducted using Epi-info software.

RESULTS

Out of 400 participants, 10% tested positive for Hepatitis B, with 87.5% of these participants having seropositive mothers. For Hepatitis C, 8.75% tested positive, with 67.5% of these participants having seropositive mothers. The relative risk of pediatric infection was significantly higher when mothers were seropositive (RR, 3.86; 95% CI, 2.3692–6.2927; p<0.0001). Our findings
emphasize the need for tailored interventions to curb vertical transmission.

CONCLUSION/LESSON LEARNT

The study underscores the urgent need for integrated and accelerated preventive strategies to eliminate vertical transmission of
Hepatitis B and C in pediatric populations, particularly in resource-constrained settings. While pediatric vaccination has significantly
reduced the overall incidence of new cases, the persistence of vertical transmission emphasizes the ongoing challenges in preventing hepatitis B transmission, particularly among the offspring of individuals who were not beneficiaries of early vaccination efforts. Continued public health measures and awareness are crucial to addressing this specific route of infection and protecting
vulnerable populations. Our findings can inform evidence-based policies and interventions to reduce the burden of pediatric hepatitis
globally.

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